Faculty of Biological Sciences

Dr Ian Wood

BSc, Imperial; PhD 1992, University College, London.
Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience
School of Biomedical Sciences

Background: Postdoctoral work at Scripps Research Institute and University College, London. Joined the School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Leeds in October, 1999.

Contact:  Garstang G6.41c, +44(0) 113 34 37922, email address for  

Research Interests

Uncovering the molecular mechanisms that control the gene expression in human disease

We are interested in identifying the molecular mechanisms that are important in regulating gene transcription in human disease. Our work uses many molecular biological techniques, in vitro and in vivo model systems as well as clinical samples to provide a complete understanding of disease mechanisms.

figure 1Current Projects

Cardiovascular disease: Smooth muscle cells within blood vessels are important for controlling blood flow and pressure. In response to damage these cells proliferate to produce new smooth muscle cells which are important for vascular repair, but excessive proliferation is a major factor in cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, in-stent restenosis and a contributing factor to cardiovascular disease associated with diabetes. We have recently identified that the transcription factor REST plays an important role in normal blood vessels by repressing genes important for smooth muscle cell proliferation, including a specific potassium channel (IKCa) that is important for vascular smooth muscle proliferation. We are currently interested in the other molecular mechanisms that are responsible for increasing IKCa expression levels in disease as well as identifying the contributions of environmental factors in promoting changes in gene expression.

Neuronal disease: Correct functioning of the nervous system requires that neurones are able to communicate with each other effectively. Neurones transmit signals via propagation of action potentials, the regulation of which is of utmost importance. One ion channel important in determining the excitability of neurones is the M-channel which is composed of subunits of the KCNQ potassium channel gene family. Mutations in KCNQ genes have been linked to heart disease, epilepsy, deafness and most recently pain. Despite their obvious importance, very little is known about how expression of these potassium channel genes is regulated. We are interested in determining how expression of these genes is regulated in normal physiology and in neuronal disorders such as epilepsy and chronic pain.

Cancer: The transcription factor REST is associated with neuronal and non-neuronal cancers. REST is normally expressed at very low levels in neurones though increased REST expression is associated with a type of childhood brain cancer – medulloblastoma. In non-neuronal cells REST is normally expressed at quite high levels and reduced REST expression has recently been associated with colon cancer and may also be important in other cancers such as breast cancer. We are currently investigating a potential role for REST in bladder cancer and determining the cell specific effects of altered REST expression to understand the mechanisms by which REST can act as a tumour suppressor or an oncogene.

Our work is supported by the British Heart Foundation, Yorkshire Cancer Research and the Wellcome Trust.


Faculty Research and Innovation

Studentship information

Undergraduate project topics:

  • Projects in all of the above areas are available. Enthusiastic and committed students are encouraged to make specific enquiries.

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • Applications are welcome from enthusiastic, committed students and postdocs to work on any of the above projects

See also:

Modules managed

BMSC3399 - Extended Research Project Preparation
BMSC5382M - Extended Research Project

Modules taught

BMSC1103 - Basic Laboratory and Scientific Skills
BMSC1110/SPSC1220 - Foundation modules
BMSC1210/SPSC1222 - Biology of the Mind/Neuroscience for Exercise Science
BMSC1213 - Basic Laboratory and Scientific Skills 2
BMSC2118 - Neurobiology
BMSC2120 - Scientific Skills
BMSC2224 - Principles of Drug Discovery
BMSC2231 - Topics in Neuroscience
BMSC2235 - Molecular Neuroscience
BMSC3140 - Advanced Scientific Skills
BMSC3143/44/45/46 - Advanced topics for BMS students I
BMSC3301 - Research Project in Biomedical Sciences
BMSC3302 - Medical Pharmacology
BMSC3399 - Extended Research Project Preparation
BMSC5382M - Extended Research Project


Member of Undergraduate School Taught Student Education Committee

Centre memberships:

Group Leader Dr Ian Wood  (Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience)

Uncovering the molecular mechanisms that control the gene expression in human disease 


Abdulelah Alshawli (Primary supervisor) 90% FTE
Sabah Khan (Co-supervisor) 10% FTE
Daniel Thwaites (Co-supervisor) 10% FTE